The number of cases of abuse involving dementia patients in South Korea has increased threefold in the past five years, data showed Thursday.
The figure illustrates the problems facing elderly patients here, with public concern rising after a lethal fire at a hospital on Wednesday.
According to Statistics Korea, the number of instances of abuse of dementia patients reported to the Korea Elder Protection Agency rose to 782 cases in 2012, up from 276 cases in 2007.
A fire believed to have been started Wednesday by an 81-year-old dementia patient left 20 patients and one nurse dead at Hyosarang Hospital in Jangseong, South Jeolla Province.
There have been no confirmed cases of abuse of patients at the hospital, but the fire shifted public attention to the level of care at facilities for senior citizens struggling with chronic illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease.
The ratio of dementia patients among those aged 65 years and over rose 9.1 percent in 2012, up from 8.4 percent in 2008, according to Ministry of Health and Welfare.
At this rate, the number of dementia patients could reach 1.3 million in 2030.
There are now 1,265 hospitals for the elderly, up from just 54 in 2002.
By Suh Ye-seul (firstname.lastname@example.org)